Nadal fights his way into semi
Paris - Rafael Nadal moved a step nearer recapturing his French Open crown on Wednesday by beating Spanish compatriot Nicolas Almagro 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 in a quarter-final tie.
It was the seventh time in seven matches that Nadal has seen off Amalgro and means that he has reached the semi-finals without losing a set yet again.
The four-times former champion was pushed at the start, dropping the first three games of the match, but once he had pocketed the first set on a tie-break, there was little doubt over the outcome.
He will play the winner of the tie between third seed Novak Djokovic and Jurgen Melzer for a place in Sunday's final when he hopes to regain the title he lost last year to Roger Federer.
Federer crashed out of the tournament the previous evening on the same court when he lost in four sets to Robin Soderling, the man who ended Nadal's 31-match winning streak in Paris last year.
"It was a tough match and I was more nervous than I usually am at the start and found myself 3-0 down," Nadal said.
"But in the tie-break I was more aggressive and that helped me to get in control of the match.
"Anything can happen now. All the players at this stage of tournament are there because they are the best.
"I saw the Federer-Soderling match and Soderling was impressive. He was serving great and getting everything back from the back of the court."
Almagro, who was seeking to reach the semi-final of a Grand Slam for the first time, was quick out of the blocks going for winners off both flanks, while Nadal worked his way slowly into the match.
From 0-3 down, the second seed pulled back to 3-3 and serves stayed on top until the tie-break which Nadal won with some ease as mistakes started to tarnish Almagro's go-for-broke tactics.
He stuck grimly to the task though in the second set staying with Nadal and even had a break point at 4-4. Nadal though warded this off with a brave serve and volley.
It needed another tie-break to separate the two and again it was Nadal who dominated from the start moving 4-0 up on the back of three crunching forehand drives that left Almagro gasping.
It was more of the same in the third set with serves on top, but the pressure of Nadal's relentless groundstrokes eventually wore down Almagro and he finally conceded his serve for just the second time in the match in the ninth game.
That left Nadal serving for the match and he made no mistake despite Almagro saving one match point.